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Practical Tips about Diet

I’ve heard that already."

That is a common reaction to lists of dietary advice. And that’s how it is – most people who have had contact with healthcare or read about diet know in general terms what kinds of food are healthy and less healthy. The problem is seldom lack of information but instead applying that information in everyday life.

To help you along the way we have compiled 13 specific tips, based on official recommendations.1 As always in the tool, this is not about slavishly following these tips. Instead they are meant to inspire your next question, in order to find a solution that works for you.

It’s one thing after all to nod in recognition when you read a list of advice, and something else altogether to consistently follow it. You are probably already following some of this advice, but it is important to think about whether there is anything you can focus even more on. No one has perfect eating habits. Perhaps you will pick up a detail here and a detail there, which in the long term can have major effects on your health as a whole.

1. It is healthy to eat colorfully, for example through a wide variety of vegetables. The different colors provide different antioxidants and protective substances. Eating at least three colors per day can be a good guideline.

2. We often see vegetables as accessories. Try doing the opposite and instead make green the basis and add on small quantities of meat, fish or shellfish. The image below shows how much that is. Eating even more vegetables is of course only good.

3. We make our food choices already in the store. If we want to fill half the plate with vegetables, then half the shopping basket should be filled with vegetables.

4. It’s often good for health to strive for what is pared down and natural. Eat vegetables raw or cooked instead of with stews and sauces. Eat berries fresh or with a little milk instead of as jam with added sugar.

5. Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils provide valuable proteins and fiber and are a nutritious base for many dishes. Legumes however are somewhat overlooked in today’s diet. If you don’t care for legumes, then try spicing them up with a taste that you like – they are easy to season.

6. The form of food plays a major role in avoiding rapid rises in blood sugar and damage to blood vessels. Mashed potatoes for example produce faster rise in blood sugar than boiled potatoes. Juice may seem natural, but it is considerably healthier to eat whole fruits because fiber and antioxidants in peels and membranes are lost in the juice.

7. Regular mealtimes are good to avoid snacking. Actually we ought to have our main meal at lunch and not in the evening, because the diurnal variation in insulin production and insulin sensitivity means that we process food more poorly in the evening.

8. White flour contains little fiber and produces rapid rise in blood sugar. Try replacing wheat flour with whole-grain flour from rye or oats in bread, pizza dough or pie. Whole grains provide long-lasting satiation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Whole grains also contain iron, folates, antioxidants and other protective substances. Many kinds of dark bread are rich in fiber, but sometimes it is syrup that gives the bread its color – for that reason it is worth taking a more careful look at the list of ingredients. Oatmeal and cornmeal are other whole-grain alternatives.

9. Try various alternatives to traditional gravy, for example hummus, tomato salsa, pesto, tapenade, tzatziki or interesting spices.

10. Processed food such as meat products, ready-to-eat meals, chips, French fries and store-bought pastries often contain a lot of trans fats that produce inflammation and vascular damage. For those occasions when you don’t have time to cook or bake yourself, then check the labels for foods that have less trans fats.

11. Lower salt intake reduces blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke. One brand of smoked sausage may contain twice as much salt as another brand – look at the list of ingredients. Try fresh herbs instead of salt, and don’t always set the salt shaker out on the table – sometimes you add salt simply out of habit.

12. Soda increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Calories in liquid form don’t make you feel full and for that reason can be deceptive.

13. Choose nuts or almonds instead of candy - but hold down on the quantity because they have high energy content.

Which of these pieces of advice is it most urgent for you to focus more on to further improve your food habits?

References

1. Nordic nutrition recommendations

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